While we feature sustainable stories throughout the year in Refrigerated & Frozen Foods, our May magazine is traditionally our sustainability issue. Being a business-to-business publication, we know that beneath the feel-good marketing of brands extolling the virtues of their earth-first practices, lies the need for cold foods companies to be profitable. There are no subsidy programs for those that are “doing the right thing” for the planet, and are drowning in red ink. 

For many years, those two issues—economics and eco-friendly practices—didn’t always sync, due to the cost (real and perceived) of switching to recyclable packaging, sourcing based on quality and regional proximity rather than just price, or just plain stubbornness by manufacturers to change their ways.

In 2021, consumers have made it clear they’re eager to spend money on companies with sustainability programs. As we noted in our March issue, shoppers are looking for foods with an eco-story to tell, created by brands concerned with conservation. From a business standpoint, many manufacturers have cleared the hurdle of up-front costs to implement sustainable initiatives, and are now seeing the big picture benefits of long-term savings through investment in renewable resources, energy-saving equipment, recyclable materials, and reducing their carbon footprint.

This issue highlights the many avenues a company can take to meet today’s eco-friendly expectations. In our cover story, we feature four committed cold foods processors that set lofty sustainability goals for today and in the future. In our Design Build section, you’ll learn that one of the three most requested upgrades for cold foods facilities is energy-saving equipment and materials. In our Energy Management section, we detail how cold foods transportation can conserve resources beyond the rig and trailer. And in our Alternative Proteins section, you’ll see how one company places plant-based protein sourcing at the core of its clean-label strategy.

In all of the stories mentioned above, one thread is clear: company cultures focused on long-term conservation are inherently good for the industry, since all cold foods start as products from the planet, as well as the energy needed to store and distribute them. To misuses or deplete those resources can eventually put cold chain companies out of business, because they’ll have very little left to create the products their brands are built upon.